Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Final Day

Today was my final day in Israel before heading to Egypt in the morning, and it held one of the most sobering experiences not only of my trip but of my life, I believe. The day started out at the Garden Tomb, where a UK Christian Charity established in the late 1890's believe they have found not only Golgotha but also the tomb that Jesus Christ was buried in. I'm skeptical about all of this, but it was interesting and the garden was beautiful. We had a communion here and Pastor Jonathan talked, as well as Lonnie, Nathan and Grant, and we heard Mickey's testimonial which was amazing. From here, we drove to the Jewish Holocaust Museum.

I wish I could properly describe how this museum effected me. This was one of those life changing moments I think people have. You spend your high school years and even my first year of university learning about the Holocaust, WW2 and Hitler's Nazi Regime, but to see it on such a great scale from the Jewish perspective brought me to tears. As a history major I have a vested interest in this, but as human beings we all should have a reason to be moved by this. After the time spent going through this giant museum, which I could have spent four or five more hours in, we went to the Children's Memorial, which was pitch black, with numerous candles reflecting off of mirrored walls, looking like millions of little lights. I did a terrible job of describing this, so a photo is below. It was simply breathtaking, and heartbreaking.

After the museum, we had a chance to explore Jerusalem on our own. My Grandparents and I made our way to the Old City of Jerusalem and walked through it, passing through the Armenian Quarter and ending up in the Jewish Quarter. We spent quite a few hours here, looking at the hundreds of different little stores selling everything you could imagine. We bought many souvenirs today in the Jewish Quarter for our people back home.

This will most likely be the last time I'll be posting on this blog until I get back to Canada on Sunday night, and at that point I'll post for the missed days. I leave in the morning to drive to Egypt, and there is very little or no internet there. Lots of photos and writing will be posted Sunday night.

I'm sad to be leaving Israel so soon, but I have a plan in the works that will hopefully find me back in this beautiful and simple mesmerizing country sooner than later.. but that's all speculation for now and I'm working on living my life one day at a time.


Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Showing who is in charge

Today was a good day. I feel like we do so much travelling here in Israel and there is so much to see and experience that the days have become a blur and it's hard to believe that tomorrow is our last day in Israel before heading to Egypt.

We left from the hotel this morning and headed to the Temple on the Mount, and waited in a very long line to pass through security and enter the Muslim place of worship. Once we had passed through security, myself and two of the other younger women were pulled out of line for wearing t-shirts, even though there were quite a few older women wearing the same length tops, and were asked to further cover our arms. Mickey explained that this was not because of us, but because of them - they want to show who is in charge. They think that people want to destroy the mosque, and tear it down with violence in order to take it over. Most Jewish people haven't been to this place for two reasons, one being that it would somewhat defile the religious aspect and two being that it's a muslim site, so they really don't care. This area is located on  a platform of 32 acres, which can hold 1/4 of a million people. The Muslims can agree with people living on land that was once Muslim, but they cannot agree with a non-Muslim state (such as Israel).

We next visited the Pools of Bethesda, where Jesus healed the paralytic. These aren't pools in the modern sense of the word, but they are more so water reservoirs. Beside this was the Church of Saint Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary. This has been my favourite Church that I think I have ever been in anywhere in the world, because it's a Crusaders Church and is very simple and traditional, with no embellishments or fancy ornaments. It has amazing acoustics and the people singing sounded so beautiful.

From here we went to the the Garden of Gethsemane, which was so very busy that Grandfather and I literally did a quick lap of the Garden and headed out - there were so many tourists pushing together that it was quite overwhelming and hard to appreciate the actual beauty of this place. From here we went to the Jerusalem Archaeological Park - which from a history students viewpoint was very interesting, but apparently I didn't find much to write about (I keep notes during the day so I know what to write here), as all I wrote down was that the Hebrew word for corner is "Pina", deriving to the word "Pinnacle".

Our final stop for the day was at the Israel Museum, where we saw two of the most interesting things. One was a model of Jerusalem, which was gigantic. We walked around it and Mickey pointed out all of the things that we had seen the past few days, and it was amazing how much of the city that had been destroyed we had seen. After we spent a good amount of time at the model of the city, we went in to see the Dead Sea Scrolls. This was not the first time I had seen them, but it meant to much more to me this time as I have now been to where they were found and I know so much about the context.

And that was today! Back to the hotel in Jerusalem early and tomorrow is our final day in Israel, with a few more sites to see and then an afternoon of shopping in the the Jewish Quarter. I've never had such an exhausting week, but boy has it been worth it.

The model of the city of Jerusalem

The Dome on the Rock

The Garden of Gethsemane

The Jewish Cemetery

Monday, 7 May 2012

From Jerusalem to Bethlehem and back

Today was a very long day with a very large amount of walking, both in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem and as well as in the Old City of Jerusalem. The day started here in Jerusalem, at the hotel we'll be spending the final four days here in Israel in. Breakfast was delicious, and Jessica Ricci would be delighted to know that I intact had grapefruit. We left earlier than usual, and headed to Bethlehem, which I mentioned before is Palestinian. We had to get off our lovely tour bus and say good-bye to our driver and get on a Palestinian Bethlehem bus to visit this city. I'm not well educated on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict so I can't speak much on this, but I can direct you my friends to wikipedia where I'm sure much more will be learnt. I know that is what I'll be doing once I return to Canada in seven days and have more time to spend on the internet. For now, all I do is write my blog post and check Facebook for probably half an hour each night before I sleep. 

Once we entered Bethlehem we went straight to the Nativity Church, the traditional location of the birth of Jesus Christ. It's called traditional because no one knows where this even took place, but this is where is it remembered. This Church is oldest Church in Christianity, and was established by Byzantine Christians. This Church is shared by three different denominations, the Armenians, the Greeks and the Catholics. Everywhere here there are old beggars, and it nearly breaks my heart to say no. I understand it's the exact same as back home in Canada, but it still makes me feel badly when I say no to them. We left the Nativity Church and headed to the Good Shepherds Store, an Arab Christian family that live in Bethlehem and runs this gigantic place full of olive wood carvings, metal items and Dead Sea spa items. It was here that I bought a mezuzah for my dear friend Dayna, and as well as some small items for various people back home (and for myself.. obviously). There were many street pedlars in the parking lot, selling Jerusalem bags and many different necklaces. Pastor Jonathan had been caught by them and bought many necklaces, and he so generously gave one to me. I will never forget this man, as he and the gentleman he is travelling with, David, have such a long background story. 

From Bethlehem, we travelled to the Old City of Jerusalem in the heart of the Jewish quarter. This has been one of the highlights of the trip for me, as it was so rich with culture and busy with people and there was so much history to learn. As we ate lunch and browsed some of the stores for a few minutes, there were bar mitzvahs passing by, which was such a lovely thing to experience, especially because my dearest little brother is turning thirteen next month, which also makes me feel so old. We visited the Wailing Wall, which was so extremely busy with both tourists and people that live in Israel alike. It was hilarious because the Texan man, Jacob, accidentally went to the women's side of the Wailing Wall. I have never seen a man blush so much before as he was being rushed out by the women around him.

After spending only a few minutes at the Wailing Wall, we went underground to explore the tunnels of the Western Wall. To go into these tunnels, we needed to book our appointment eight months in advance - how crazy is that! The Wailing Wall is only a small section of the Western Wall plaza. There is still an ancient street on top of the bridge that is actually used in modern day for regular traffic. The fortress that was built on top of these tunnels is called the Antonio fortress, named for Marc Antony, who was a good friend of Harold the Great. The fortress was knocked down and levelled in 70AD by the Romans, who levelled everything looking for gold and treasures, and the took everything. 

We exited the tunnels and walked through the Via Dolorosa on our way to  the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, This is a traditional location on the tour, as it is believed to over the small hill of Golgotha, it apparently contains the rock on which Jesus was anointed, and contents the cave of Joseph. This Church is quite interesting as it is home to six different denominations, Ethiopia, Syria, Egyptian (Coptic's), Armenia, Greece and the Catholics. This place was full of people from every place on Earth, all hoping to touch this stone where apparently Jesus was anointed. I'm not quite sure what I think about this, but it was amusing to watch if anything. 

From here we went to Caiaphias' House - which isn't really a house but a Catholic Church on a piece of land that is said to have a religiously historical important place. There really isn't anything interesting to say about this.. I took this time to draw some pictures in my notebook as it was the end of a very long day and I was losing my attention span.

It's now nearly 9:30pm and I'm sitting here in the lobby at the hotel in Jerusalem so I can't post this, but I keep getting distracted by people in the group asking me questions. When you're the only person under 40, you are the most interesting thing other than the tour and all I can say is that the Americans were very amused when I returned a one dollar bill to one of them and accidentally called it a Loonie. Oh well. Three more days here in Israel before we head to Egypt. 

Heading into the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem 

The anointment stone in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Arab side of Jerusalem 

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Dead Sea, Masada, En Gedi, Qumeran, Jordan, Jericho and finally Jerusalem

This morning started out beautifully, as we did have to check out of the hotel until 10:30 am, which is quite nice as we've been leaving at 8am every morning so far on the trip. My Grandparents and I went down to the Dead Sea at 7:!5am, and floated for a little while. This is an experience that not only do I think everyone should experience in their life, but I also think is so difficult to truly explain to someone. You literally do float. I tried to swim out farther from the shore but it's hard to propel my body when all that is happening is it is being pulled up to the surface. The water is so full of minerals that it feels extremely oily to touch. It was simply magnificent. After this, as today is Sunday, there was a Church service. I opted out of this and instead took this time to stroll along the shore of the Dead Sea and spend some time on the Internet. 

We checked out of the amazing resort at the Dead Sea and drove to Masada, a mountain. It's hard to comprehend the drastic changes in the landscape here. I mean, in many of the photos I've posted there is luscious wilderness and green plants. The Dead Sea, and Masada are in the middle of the desert. We took a cable car up to the top of Masada and visiting the ruins in the absolutely sweltering heat. It wasn't too hot at this point, as it was only noon. We returned to the bottom where we had some lunch, which was decently good, and spent some time getting some souvenirs, as well as my Grandparents bought me a pair of Israel sandals. 

We drove from here to En Gedi, an oasis. It was simply amazing, to be driving through the middle of the desert and come to this patch of green and life, with a small waterfall. And by small, I mean probably twice my height tall, and only emptying into a tiny little spring that I could wade in, and I was wearing pretty long shorts. 

The next detonation was Qumeran, which is the location of where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. I wish I could say that I spent some time in these ruins, but it was so insanely hot that my Grandmother and I found some ice cream and shade, and sat there for twenty minutes or so while Grandfather took some photographs of the ruins.

From here we went to the Jordan/Israel border, at the part of the Jordan River where it is believed that John the Baptist actually baptized Jesus. It was amazing because we were standing on one bank of the Jordan River, and only five or six meters across on the other bank were other people, but they were standing on the country of Jordan. Amazing how close all these countries that are trying to  destroy Israel are. This was a very short destination, as it is a border and we needed special clearance to get here. 

We got back on the road again, and drove for thirty minutes to the next location. On the way we got a look at the Palestinian city of Jericho, which I wish I could visit. We drove until we reached Abraham's Tent - slightly like a "Medieval Times" style set up, with actors playing the part of Abraham and some of his friends as they exercise their hospitality. There were camel rides here, but we chose to allow the others as we have a three hour camel ride up Mt Sinai to look forward to, which most of the others will not do as they are not going to Egypt. It was here at dinner that I talked to the most lovely older couple from New Zealand, who after this trip will be heading to England to see their two month old grandson named Rhys. They are so lovely and so old. I just love old people.

We left this place overlooking the city of Jericho and the desert and made our way to Jerusalem. I love that the houses along the way all face towards the city. One thing that was really interesting was that Pastor Jonathan pointed out to me as we were driving the Valley of Shadows.. I'm sure everyone knows the line "As I walk through the Valley of the Shadow…" Interesting!

Anyways, we arrived in the city of Jerusalem to the nicest, largest and newest hotel, where for the first time, my Grandparents and I are located on the same floor! This means less distance for me as I always meet them at their room so we can go places together.

Being here makes me feel like an old person - I mean, it's 9pm and I'm rushing to get this all typed so I can go to sleep. Tomorrow we have a really early morning and I'm starting to feel like I might have a bit of sun stroke, I'm really not feeling well, so early bedtime and hopefully I'll be well tomorrow. I can't post any photos with this post unfortunately as the internet here in the hotel sucks. Oh well.

Hope all is well xx

Saturday, 5 May 2012

I Support the IDF

Shalom my friends! Today is Shabbat, or Sabbath so I figured I’d start with some Hebrew, especially considering where I am. Today was a very hot day, and it isn’t even over. I’m currently writing on the bus as we head for the Dead Sea, but the trip is just about two hours so I thought I’d get some writing done now, and I’ll finish once we arrive at tonight’s hotel.

This morning had us just outside of Tiberias, at the hotel we had stayed at for two nights. I saw the biggest cockroach probably on the planet. Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but boy was it big! The bird that was attacking it couldn’t even fly away with it, so it gave up and flew away to search for other food. That was how my day started. I showed the cockroach to Mickey, and he said that the cockroach has been here in Israel since the days of the Old Testament. He has been doing these tours for sixteen years now so he always has the right thing to say, I think.

We checked out of the hotel and travelled through the city of Tiberias, which is the capital city of Galilee on the western side of the Sea of Galilee. From here we got on a boat, and took a ride across the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum. The boat ride was so nice and smooth, and halfway through I did a traditional Hava Nigila dance with a very very good looking Israeli man. It was here on the boat that my Grandparents bought me a very nice necklace, which is a stone from the Sea of Galilee with a small charm on it. I had the option of a cross, a boat or a star of David charm, and I chose the Star of David charm. I’m sure when I wear it people will assume I’m Jewish, but that is fine. The Jewish people have such a tumultuous history and uncertain future and I see nothing wrong with being associated with this. In fact, I’m currently wearing a bracelet that says “I Support the IDF” (IDF meaning Israeli Defence Force). We got off the boat in Capernaum, where the bus was waiting for us.

From here we took a very short visit to Mt. Beatitudes, which is a traditional location on the trip, as it is said that the sermon on the mount was delivered by Jesus here. Scripture says that he spoke on a mount – but everywhere you look there are hills and mountains. This is where the Catholic Church says it happened, so they built a Church and maintain the grounds. It is very Italian looking here.

We left Mr. Beatitudes and travelled a short distance to a place called the Yiga Allon Center, a museum. Here we saw a boat that due to the style of construction, is dated back to at least the Byzantine period. It was here that we had lunch, and I had the most delicious schwarma. It’s going to be hard to eat these foods when I return to Canada because there is no comparison in quality. Here we visited the gift shop and a nice young man was demonstrating the kosher shofars for me, and he explained what makes them kosher, which was so neat. A Shofar is pretty much a horn made out of the horn of a goat, ram or antelope. It has to be kosher because it is apparently the voice of God. This means that they can’t take it from a live animal, as this is torture, and they can’t take it from a dead animal, as this makes it dirty. So, they must wait until the animal sheds the horn or loses it in a battle with another animal. They make the loudest sound and I was considering purchasing one just to wake my family when I am home, or to bother my future roomies when I move into my house in London (sorry gals, but wouldn’t that be silly?).

We left from the Yiga Allon Center and made our way to the Jordan River Baptism site, where many people from our group were to be baptized. It was SO hot at this point during the day, you couldn’t even sit on the rocks because it was smoking hot. Here I volunteered to take photos of two of the couples on the trip, Jacob and Cynthia (the younger, tall couple from Texas) and Grant and Denise (the Pastor and his wife who gave me a hairtie on the very first day from Seattle) while they were baptized. It was in the gift shop here at the Jordan River that my Grandparents bought not only an Israeli Defence Force t-shirt for me, but also five more shirts for the little Campbell children back home.

We left this place and drove to Bet She’an, which has been one of my favourite places so far in Israel. It was huge and beautiful – very typical of Roman architecture, as it has many of the typical features, such as columns, the hippodromes, and coliseum features. I certainly wow’d the older folks on the trip by climbing (past the no climbing sign, keep in mind) up to the top of the columns, where my grandfather captured some great photographs, as I look like a tiny dot against this stunning blue sky. We explored the bath houses, a very important part of Roman culture, and then and even looking back now, I feel so blessed to be able to experience and learn about this firsthand. So many people never make it out of the classroom or photographs, and here I am running and climbing on these things. I should mention, Bet She’an is the largest archaeological site in all of Israel, and it is absolutely stunning. Amazing preservation and discovery of this ancient place.

We left Bet She’an after just over an hour of the sun beating down on us and  are on the road to the Dead Sea now, so I’ll add some about the Dead Sea once we arrive, and post this later tonight. Time to catch some zzz’s on the road and recharge after a busy day.

Finally - settled into the hotel, and with internet for 60 shekels. We're here at the Dead Sea, which was one of the most amazing sites to drive up to. The smell was terrible! So much sulphur! It was interesting that you could see where the different levels of the Dead Sea were at various points in time. This hotel we're at is quite nice - but it's a resort, as compared to the other places we have staying. It's 10pm now and we have to be awake early to swim in the Dead Sea, so time for me to sleep. Shalom my friends, and hopefully all is well in your life as well.

View of Tiberias from a boat on the Sea of Galilee

Bet She'an

The Dead Sea

Friday, 4 May 2012

Turkish Coffee and Skiing in Israel

Another day has come and gone here in Israel, and although it's only 8:45pm, I'm in bed and ready to sleep (Father if you're reading this, I'm as surprised as you are at this early bedtime!). I can't recall a time in my life when I have been more exhausted than I am right now. Physically and mentally this trip is playing quite a toll on me, and I'm loving every minute of it.

We started out this morning with breakfast here at the hotel outside of Tiberias, and then boarded the bus. I realized that it was indeed May the 4th, and holy did the older folks LOVE "May the Fourth Be With You" joke - I presume it was their first time hearing this joke, so I got the gratification of hearing them all laugh. We travelled north through the Decapolis, which literally translates to Ten Cities, after the New Testament. We learned that the Sea of Galilee in fact is not a sea, but a lake. The reason behind it being called the sea is that when the scripture was being translated, there is a Hebrew word that means simply "large body of water" (Yam), and as the Greek's were translating it, the only large bodies of water they knew were Seas. Interesting!

Our first stop today was at Korazim, the only synagog found with both the original as well as traditional pieces, such as the Seat of Moses. This was nice to see because it was authentic - this is an actual archaeological dig that is still in progress. We left Korazim and drove through the Hulah Valley, past both an ancient Canninite City and past the Golan Plateau (a place we would be visiting later in the day). We drove past Mr. Hermon, which is the highest point in all of Israel. Halfway through the Hulah Valley we crossed the Jordan River - meaning we officially crossed from the African continent over to the Asian continent. 

One thing that I learned today that was quite interesting is that there are many different types of sacrifices, one of which being called "holocaust", meaning burning of the entire animal. There are two tribes remaining in Israel, the Levy/Cohens and the Judas. 

To interject, it is now actually Saturday May 5th that I'm writing this. The internet at the hotel was down last night, so I was unable to actually post this. It's 5:30am now and the internet seems to be working just fine now.

To continue with yesterdays travels .. We made our want to Tel Dan, the most northern part of Israel. We explored the archaeological site of the ancient city of Dan, where we saw some miraculous archeological aspects, such as the gates to the ancient city. From there, we could see two very very VERY interesting things. One was an Israeli military camp, high up on the mountain, looking over the ceasefire line between Syria and Israel.  The Dan Springs is one of the three sources that run their course and then eventually feed into one another and become the Jordan River. 

We then travelled to the city of Casearea Phillipi, another very Roman city. We ate lunch at a Lebanis restaurant which was very good - not only was the food great, but we met some more friends, including a woman named Marianne who will also be continuing into Egypt with us. We enjoyed some Turkish coffee here. Actually let me rephrase that, OTHERs enjoyed some Turkish coffee here. I'm quite new to the coffee drinking experience, and this was simply too much for me. I had a sip, to be fair and to say that I at least try everything, but it was one of the strongest coffees I've ever experienced. After lunch we made our way up a small path, past the Hermon River Springs (a second feed into the Jordan River). I enjoyed this part because we looked at one of the pagan gods, Pan. I don't LIKE pagan gods, but I find it quite interesting, especially with the Roman influence. Pan is half man, half goat, and it said to guard the gates to hell. Much like I mentioned in yesterdays post, I don't know much about this, so wikipedia is your friend, my friends. 

We left Casearea Phillip to drive to the Golan Heights, which is the cease fire line between Israel and Syria. This is not what we would expect as a border, such as what we see in Canada between us and the United States. This is because Syria does not recognize Israel as a state, so it does not have a border. We drove past the most magnificent Crusaders Castle, which was built in the 13th century. I would love to retune to visit it one day. It was taken by a very militant Muslim group which we engaged in political murder. This is really interesting because they smoked lots of Hashish (Hash), and the opposition could not pronounce this, so it became "Assassin", where we get that word from. 

We arrive at the Golan Heights, and had an opportunity to take photos on both an Israel as well as a Soviet tank. I loved this. I am a bit war obsessed (in the sense of learning about it, not so much enjoying it) so it was nice to have this opportunity. There was a beautiful monument with a poem written dedicated to the Israel solider who had fallen. From here, we left for Bethsaida, the supposed location of the biblical story of the feeding of 5000. It was so very hot. We're well into the 30s here in Israel and it is simply too much for my Canadian body to handle. I miss the snow. 

As much as I need to wrap this up and start my day, that last sentence reminded me of something very interesting that I would love to share. There is a sky resort here in Israel, up on the Golan Heights. That is only open for two weeks a year, and it's so expensive to visit that a trip to Colorado is less expensive! Interesting, eh? 

Well, it's now 6:30am, on Saturday May 5th, and it's time to begin the day. I must pack my bags as we are in a new hotel tonight, which apparently will be absolutely amazing as it's on the Dead Sea. Lots of my people will be getting souvenirs from here, as you females are easy to shop for, this is a spa I am going to. Hoping for safe travels as usual and hoping that family and friends (and strangers that have stumbled upon my blog) are safe wherever they are also.

The Ancient City of Tel Dan, the most northern tip of the country of Israel

The Grotto of the Pagan God Pan - Hermon River Springs

The ancient arches of a synagog in Korazim

Just hanging out on an Israel Tank

Thursday, 3 May 2012

For more information, ask wikipedia

Hello from Tiberias, Israel! It's only 10pm here, yet it feels as if it's much much later, as we were out and busy from 8am this morning. And boy, has it been a busy day. As I sit here in my new hotel room, my head simply aches from trying to remember where we were today and what I tried to mentally store to remember to write here. I do have a notebook in my backpack which I've scribbled somewhat in, but I was so preoccupied trying to take in the environment around me that writing was mostly pushed to the side. We're staying in Tiberias for two nights, which is much more organized for me so hopefully I'll have time to clear my brain and get focused. This post might be quite long, as we experienced so much today.

The day started out in Netanya, where yesterdays post was written from. An early wake up and a delicious breakfast sped by and before we knew it, we were on the bus and on the road to Ceasarea, A man named Grant Bowles spoke to us for a bit of a morning devotion, mentioning both how Mt. Carmel (a destination for the day) was the setting for Elijah, and how it demonstrated an amazing amount of faith. Mickey taught us a Hebrew song, which included the word "hodu" or simply, Thank You. Time for one of those Mickey-isms: "There are two ways to learn Hebrew: first, marry a local. Second: join the Israeli forces. Eventually you'll need Hebrew though, because that's the language of Heaven. This is good though, because it does take an eternity to learn it!" Mickey is such a funny and knowledgable man.

After a twenty minute drive, we arrived in Ceasarea, an archaeological park named after (obviously) Caesar. It's a New Testament site, and was the capital when the Romans ruled this part of the world.  Mickey told us that living in Caesarea is very expensive, and compared it to living somewhere like Malibu in the United States. I'm not quite sure about that, because from what I saw, there was nothing special about the homes. I presume the price comes from the location, right on the water. We left Caesarea and drove for a short while to the aqueduct, which was beautiful to take pictures in front of - but as we only had a "Five Minute Kodak Moment" we were quite rushed, and before anytime at all we were back on the bus and headed to Mt. Carmel.

Mt. Carmel, as a Canadian, is not a mountain, but simply a large hill. The bus ride from the bottom to the top took not very long, and we stopped at the very top at a sanctuary and monastery called Muhraqa. After climbing to the top of the building, we had a beautiful view of the Armageddon Valley. I don't have much to say about this because I'm not brushed up on my book of Revelations, but this is where the final battle is to take place, and there will be so much blood it'll be above the horses legs. For more information ... I'm sure wikipedia or the Bible can be of assistance there.

From there we made our way to have lunch in a Druze restaurant, which was quite good. Here we made two friends, Carolyn and Mary, women from North Carolina. They were quite nice. We left the Druze village to head for Megiddo, and to the National Park to look at an archaeological site and climb down 180 stairs, through a water tunnel, and then back up. Grandmother and I were the quickest, and had to wait for the rest of the people to get through before Grandfather submerged. Here we learned about some of the natural vegetation of the land - most of which isn't actually natural.

Cows here in Israel moo A LOT. Just thought I'd mention that, because it seemed everywhere we walked in Megiddo there was a cow moo-ing at me. Maybe they know I don't like them, and they were taunting me.

We left Megiddo and drove to Nazareth, the childhood home of Jesus. We visited a museum type land that had many reconstructed architectural aspects of the land. I didn't enjoy this as much as I had hoped - it seemed very in-genuine, but the girl was full of information, which made up for it. It just seemed very .. Pioneer Village? People in costumes, reconstructed buildings, and whatnot. But it was interesting and informational nonetheless!

We left Nazareth and headed to our final destination and location for the next two nights, Tiberias. Holy heck is this hotel nice! I watched the sunset on the Sea of Galilee while the Grandparents unpacked, and then we had a delicious dinner. I talked with a man named Darell from California, who must be in his late 60s/early 70s, who has not only a history undergrad but then a law degree. He gave me some valuable advice, and it was nice to get to know some of the people here on the trip with us.

Well, it's taken nearly 40 minutes to figure out what we did today and write this. Time to shower (which has many little flies in it so I'll have to play exterminator first) and then sleep - another busy and full day starting at 6am again tomorrow. For those of you who have made it this far into the blog post, I'll leave you with a joke Mickey told us today: "1/3 of the Israeli population works, 1/3 pays taxes and 1/3 are in the forces. They all happen to be the same 1/3."

Ceasarea - that place way out there looks so old and nice. When you get close, it's a Sushi restaurant 

The Aqueduct - Ceasarea

Armageddon Valley - Megiddo


The sun setting in Tiberias, over the Sea of Galilee

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Micky-isms and Angry Israeli Men

Greetings from Netanya, Israel! It's currently 9:03pm, and I'm writing from the desk here in my hotel room on the 6th floor of the Blue Bay Hotel and Spa, the first of many hotels on our journey. It's a shame that we aren't staying here for more than one night though, as I scored the best room (or at least, better than Grandmother and Grandfathers). As I sit and relax after way too many hours of flying my balcony door is open and literally a stone's toss distance away is the Mediterranean Sea, crashing against the sandy shore far below with such power. The first flight, Toronto to London, went by quickly, yet I didn't get a chance to sleep on the 7 hour trip. After meeting a new friend, Laform, a girl who overheard me mention Tel Aviv and then introduced herself and mentioned that she lives just north of Tel Aviv, the four of us (Grandparents, Zoe and this new friend) rushed through Heathrow to make it on our connecting flight to Tel Aviv in time. The atmosphere on this flight was much different, as a majority of the passengers (myself included) took this time to sleep before landing in Israel. The first thing I noticed about Israel, other than the abundance and variety of traditionally dressed Jewish men, was the smell. It has such a particular smell, but I credit this mostly to the adjacent sea. We met with the tour group, and from the airport we took an hour bus ride to our first destination, here in Netanya. We have the most magnificent tour guide, Mickey, who is charismatic and knowledgeable about the country. I've started a list of "Things Mickey Says" in one of my notebooks, making sure to note down the interesting and quirky Mickey-isms. We arrived in Netanya, enjoyed dinner (which was surprisingly good, especially considering how picky of an eater I am!) and now have settled in for the night. Of course, what would any trip be without me and Grandfather jumping to take care of our electronics and consequently blowing their rooms fuse as soon as we got into the hotel. An angry Israeli man is already fed up with us.

In the morning we leave for Casearea bright and early, but I'm  hoping to wake up around 6am Israel time  to get in a walk on the beach with my camera and notebook. It feels like such a waste to lay in bed when I'm here on the other side of the world, when I could be exploring and learning as much as I can.

Here's a bit of knowledge as shared by Mickey: petroleum here is 8$ a gallon! Most of the cars you see driving in Israel are small, and the Mazda 3 is the most popular vehicle. Now you know!

Our hotel - the Blue Bay Hotel and Spa located right on the Mediterranean sea

Welcome to Netanya Isreal! (view from the Grandparents room)

Netanya Isreal and the Blue Bay Hotel and Spa Hotel

The Mediterranean Sea (view from my room)

My dream writing place - it has come true! How could I possibly leave? 

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

In the beginning ..

So technically this shouldn't really be a blog post, considering the title of this blog is "Zoe is Israel" and as I write this I'm sitting in the airport in Toronto. But as it is an international flight we're about to board, we have hours to waste and free wifi, so why not? In an hour and a half myself and my grandparents will board the first of two flights, Toronto to London, and then after a very short period of time (literally not even two hours) we'll be on a plane to Tel Aviv. I'm not quite sure how the times will work but I do know that I've now been awake for almost 48 hours so hopefully sleep will be achieved on the plane. We did purchase neck pillows so that will help. I'm unsure at this point as to what the internet situation will be which travelling so hopefully this will be updated often. All I really am sure of is that not only will this be amazing considering not many are lucky to be able to travel like this at my age with their grandparents, but also, it's Israel! Interesting fact about Israel: The glue on Israeli stamps is kosher! Neat. 
Also if anyone is looking for a good song to listen to in an airport, or just in general, the song "Le Temps Perdu" but Carla Bruni (yes, the President of France's wife!) has been on repeat on my iPod while waiting in the airport. 

Checking in our luggage - just for the record, I had the lightest bag! 
Grandfather enjoying the moving sidewalk - Grandmother opted to walk beside instead of having the free ride

Not even out of the country and we're already shopping - new sandals for Grandmother and a hat for Zo 

Of course, the first of many expected self portraits. Rocking a hat for the first time in my life.